Tarbela Damned – Pakistan Tamed
“The genre that sales the most, since the boom in Indian publishing 2014 onwards, has been the thriller. C.N. Anand’s ,Tarbela Damned – Pakistan Tamed – published in 2007, was a forerunner, perhaps long before its time” – Editor’s note.
C.N. Anand studied in St Edmunds from 1960 to 1962. He graduated from Defence Services Public School, Delhi, in December 1965 and managed to get the ISC certificate. He then joined IIT Madras and after graduation joined the Bombay Sappers, Indian Army. He served in Nagaland and Sri Lanka and retired in 1993. He is now settled in Chennai and survives on Bridge playing.
C.N. did Civil Engineering at a time when the era of dam building was over. So he fantasized on how to destroy one. If a dam had to be destroyed, let it be a Paki one he thought. Destroying a dam is a major task and required non-Indian actors. So he decided to start with St Edmunds as it gave an Irish connection. An Israeli connection was conjured up: the protagonists studied in St Edmunds. The genesis for his first book complete, he titled it TARBELA DAMNED. He thought that potential readers might shy away as they might think it is about a musical instrument. So, he elaborated by adding PAKISTAN TAMED.
RAW, Mossad, IRA join hands to bomb Pak’
Review by Soumyadeep in Cutting the Chai blog
The headline may sound as sensational as if it was from one of the television news channels (who are a major source of worry for the K-queen Ekta Kapoor). Though any such possibility might seem remote now (but you never know the ways of war) anEdmundian, Nitya Anand Chepuri has conjured this idea in his novel Tarbela Damned – Pakistan Tamed.
The plot is exciting, especially for a generation who have been brought up on the idea that our ‘pesky’ neighbour is the reason for all our ills. Two men who studied together in school – St. Edmund’s Shillong – and then went on to IIT Madras. The Hindu, Rahul Sharma joins the RAW and the Jew, Solomon Rabban, migrates to Israel and joins the Mossad. The Irish Republican Army angle is due to the influence of an Irishman, Brother Manahan, who taught them in School (St. Edmund’s is run by the Christian Brothers founded by Edmund Ignatius Rice at Waterford, Ireland). They join hands in pursuit of their mission, taming Pakistan.
There might be some parallels in the story line with the author’s life who had studied in St. Edmunds before passing out from the Defence Services Public School and graduating from IIT Madras. He then went on to join the army. The reviews say that “there is no off-putting jingoism and no cold-bloodedness,” which is indeed welcome for a novel with a title like Tarbela Damned – Pakistan Tamed.
Tarbela Dam, built across the river Indus, is Pakistan’s largest dam and is therefore of vital importance for the country. And Pakistanis on hearing of an ‘imminent danger’ to it are understandably worried. Anand pointed me to a Pakistani military and strategic discussion forum, where some members took the plot of the novel for real and posted interesting reactions. Here are a few samples (unedited):
* I can understand RAW and MOSSAD masterminding something but how does the Irish military come into this? Is this some troops in Afghanistan?
Anyway these dams need proper protection because RAW and MOSSAD can send mind control zombies to do a suicide bombing on one of them. Dams are fragile and very hard to fix. I think it’s against the Geneva convention to even bomb a damn during war.
* dams are not military targets, in war you are not meant to hit dams and if someone does then they will be nuked
* If the military stay in power then any such attack would be considered an act of war against Pakistan. Doesn’t matter who does it, Talibs or not, without dams Pakistan would go down the drain. This is why we would ensure India goes down with us, meaning All nukes to Indian and Israeli cities. Also the factor of Indian nukes being called a bluff, cause we’re not sure if they can actually nuke us or not.
* Tell me a single time when the Indian or Israelis show honesty
* just imagine……..
Bhakra Nangal Dam Damned, Bhangies tamed.
Ranjit Sagar Dam Damned, Bhangies tamed.
Gobind Sagar Dam Damned, Bhangies tamed.
Some comments were more realistic:
* it was just a novel by an Indian writer. The West, including Israel is not interested in de-stabilizing Pakistan.
Well, I learnt another thing from the thread. Indians are referred to as Bhangies across our western border – maybe due to the still prevalent caste system in our country.
Most well-meaning Indians do not want an instable western neighbour even though we might have fought many wars, the scars of which might take long to heal. Pakistan’s stability is good for India. Being surrounded by so-called failed states is a precarious situation in today’s volatile times. If India has to develop into a super power that it aspires to be, there has to be political stability and economic growth in all of South East Asia. Because the ground realities here are much different from what existed in the American continents.
The plot’s premise seems very interesting. Actually, it’s about time we had a thriller novel that caters to the Desi audience and focusses exclusively on the Indo-Pak rivalry.
I will definitely give this novel a dekko.
2:48 PM, September 03, 2007
This is the condition of the country that claims to be the biggest DEMOCRACY of the continent, is peace is possible in the land where such writings are produced & on the other side there are the voice of Indo-Pak friendship, what type of friendship is this?
6:13 PM, October 02, 2007
Anonymous 2 It is the diversity of views and opinions that make a vibrant democracy.
FAST PACED NOVEL
Review by CHITRAPU UDAY BHASKAR in The Hindu
It is August 22, 2007 and Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf is addressing his nation after the Tarbela Dam across the mighty River Indus has sustained severe damage thereby threatening vast tracts of the country and its inhabitants. India has offered to assist. “You are aware of the grave crisis Pakistan is facing…you must have heard Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to treat us like brothers…India has not taken advantage but has offered us help…I want to explore the possibility of a confederacy between us…I am convinced this is the will of Allah…Pakistan and India Zindabad.” Far fetched? Not for the fertile imagination of an enthusiastic author and in Anand’s rendition of the troubled bilateral relationship, the Tarbela Dam occupies centre-stage.
In a complex fictional trapeze that involves the Indian external intelligence agency RAW and its Israeli counterpart Mossad, and also some elements of the IRA, this slim volume demonstrates how Pakistan is “tamed”. The central figure is Rahul Sharma, a RAW operative who single-handedly conceives and executes a seemingly incredible plan to sabotage the Tarbela Dam and is assisted by his old school-mate, Solomon Rabban — an Indian Jew who emigrates to Israel and later joins the Mossad. For good measure the Irish are also brought on board and it is a racy tale that moves from Shillong to Chennai to Dublin and Dubai even as it crisscrosses Pakistan — its persecuted minorities and power hungry Generals.
Here is a narrative that is ambitious in scope and seeks to invoke the scale of a James Michener novel as it grapples with complex historical issues and simultaneously introduce an Ian Fleming like pace and tautness when dealing with the shadowy world of intelligence and high stake national security issues. But like the proverbial curate’s egg, the final product is good in parts though the fact that this is the author’s debut makes this an endearing first effort. In his rather brief acknowledgement, he admits that “my first novel came out in a gush” and there is that strain of untrammeled energy about the book. We know little about the author—for there is no standard blurb to give the curious reader appropriate background information — but Anand clearly knows his chosen domain. One presumes there is an autobiographical undercurrent embedded in the storyline but it is the deep asides into civil engineering and the intricacies of building (and damaging) a rock and earth dam that I personally found illuminating.
But there are too many issues and ideas that keep “gushing” through the book and a more rigorous editor may have accorded the otherwise compelling story greater directivity. From a quick history of Indian civilization and the humiliation of colonial rule to the Jewish experience and the injustice done to the Irish as also the brutality of the feudal order in Pakistan amongst other strands, the book seeks to traverse too much in too little space. But the author is to be commended for the vitality of this maiden effort and the publisher has done a neat job.
Review by Aparna M. Sridhar in The Tribune
TARBELA Damned – Pakistan Tamed is a racy work of fiction set amidst political and social crises in the sub-continent. It is the kind of book one would want to read while waiting for delayed flights or on long tedious train journeys. It is a heady mixture of diplomacy, terrorism and inter-continental intelligence, with a fairy-tale ending in which India brings Pakistan to heel.
The author has used both broad strokes and vivid detail to describe the backdrop of the story, which draws extensively from Indian history and geography, but also gives insights into the Irish revolutionary movement, the status of Indian Jews as well as the socio-political milieu of present-day Pakistan.
It is this seemingly effortless descriptiveness that lifts the novel from being just a pot-boiler, to one which makes the reader pause and introspect about the tragedy of terrorism. There are asides on items like “Irish whiskey” which go down well. He tells us that the word whiskey apparently is a corruption of the Irish term “uiscebeatha” which means “water of life” and surprises us with the little piece of information that the Irish were the ones to first bring the art of distilling to Scotland.
The author sketches a black -and-white picture where all those involved in the plot to blow up the Tarbela Dam instantly build a rapport and there is no cultural or moral questioning. There is no dissension, no hiccups in executing a plot of such grand dimensions and a surprising transnational bonhomie between the characters. The Irishman gets along well with the Indian, the Indian Jew has international links to American universities and can coerce funds easily, revengeful Pakistanis immediately align together at payback time`85.but the author carries it off because of his reliance on facts.
Every time skepticism threatens to creep in, a generous scoop of reality is served up to make one believe. How else will a reader, especially in this part of the world, be able to take in a changed political scenario where at the Wagah border, the high stepping of our soldiers “seem like peacocks (moving) towards each other in a gesture of love.”
There is no off-putting jingoism and no cold-bloodedness, and that makes one sympathize with the protagonists’ efforts. Simple prose and heart-warming Indianisms add to the charm of this first work.
A Cracker of a Novel
Review by T. L. Palani Kumar
IIT Alumni often have surprisingly diverse careers, some even far removed from their core engineering disciplines. Anand has put his career in the Indian Army to very good use, to write a cracker of a novel about a final solution to the India-Pakistan problem, with the basic premise involving his core civil engineering discipline! This is a work of fiction, but so firmly bedded on facts and very plausible personalities and scenarios that it could be read as a factual account of ‘history just about to happen’. In fact, the current situation developing on the ground in Pakistan, with food and power shortages, and the growing clout of extremists in their Polity, is eerily foretold in this chronicle. In fact, even the “Jang” of Pakistan has translated a few chapters from this book into Urdu, ostensibly with a view to caution the Government of Pakistan! (The link is http://www.jang.net/jang_mag/
The Author’s denouement is indeed very realistic, and quite a nice ending to over 60 years of bitter Indo-Pak rivalry. It is a gripping and fast-paced read, with the plot developing at such break-neck speed that the development of characters and their inner lives takes second place. And as befitting an all-knowing IITian, Anand’s right at home whether he’s describing the difference between Irish Whiskey or Scotch, or the arrival of Bene Israelis in India. And so describing the Tarbela Dam’s structural strengths and weaknesses was not at all difficult for him. The fact that the old India–Pakistan rivalry has now moved center-stage after 9/11, and is now close to the center of global geo-politics and vital to Super Power interests, is well brought-out by him. You wish he had spent some more time in fleshing out the main characters and their development and evolution over time, especially the IITian who ends up in the Mossad! And, while his brief but frenetic accounts of passionate sex between two of the principal characters Rahul and Lata were probably edited substantially before print, you feel he could have done better! All in all, a very good first novel, which should whet the appetite of every IITian, and which makes one look forward to his next work.